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Halo: The Master Chief Collection on PC: everything we know

halo: the master chief collection

After years in the wilderness, Halo: The Master Chief Collection will bring Halo Reach, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo 2: Anniversary, Halo 3: ODST (minus the Firefight mode), Halo 3 and Halo 4 to PC.

The only previous games in the FPS series to launch on PC were Halo and Halo 2, both well over a decade ago (if you don't count the Halo Wars spin-offs). This is obviously a big moment, and it seems like Microsoft is making some good decisions in bringing them to PC: Namely launching them on Steam, rather than trapping them on the Microsoft Store (though you can buy it there too). There's much more to go into below, too.

The PC version is being worked on by Halo stewards 343 Industries, Ruffian Games and Splash Damage. In total, the Master Chief Collection will entail over 120 multiplayer maps and 67 campaign missions—which should be enough to keep you occupied for a while. The idea is to "evolve and grow" the collection over time with community input, so it's likely we'll see more features added to each game after launch.

Here's everything we know so far about the Halo: Master Chief Collection on PC, including when you'll be able to try it out in beta.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection's release date is 2019

halo: the master chief collection

The Master Chief Collection will be sold on PC as individual titles, and then they'll be sold as a package when they're all released. The Halo games will be released in chronological order on PC, according to the series' lore. The order is as follows, then: Reach, Combat Evolved, 2, 3, ODST, and 4. 

Co-developer Splash Damage suggested in its newsletter—captured by Resetera—that all the games will arrive on PC before the year's end. "The cat is out of the bag. We're incredibly proud to be working closely with Microsoft once more, this time on bringing Halo: The Master Chief Collection to PC," it says. "Halo: Reach is coming first, with the rest of the titles scheduled throughout the year."

Halo Reach on PC's latest test flight is live for Insiders

343 Industries has launched a new test flight for Halo Reach on PC, this time opening up bits of campaign, firefight, and multiplayer. The test flight runs until November 5. Invites have gone out to select Halo Insiders, so check your email to see if you got a code! Here's everything in this test:

Firefight matchmaking

  • 4-player Heroic standard Firefight: will be played on Beachhead, Corvette, and Holdout.
  • 4-player Normal grab bag Firefight: will be played on Beachhead, Corvette, and Holdout.

Multiplayer matchmaking

  • 2v2 Social: Slayer, Flag and Bomb, Zone Control, and Asset Denial will be played on maps Countdown, Powerhouse, and Zealot.
  • 4v4 Social: Slayer, Flag and Bomb, Zone Control, Asset Denial, Action Sack, Swat, and Snipers will be played on Countdown, Powerhouse, Zealot, and Tempest.
  • 8v8 Social: Slayer, Flag and Bomb, Zone Control, Asset Denial, Action Sack, and Snipers will be played on Tempest, Breakpoint, and Ridgeline.
  • Halo: Reach Team Hardcore: Slayer and Capture the Flag will be played on maps Countdown and Zealot.
  • Halo: Reach Invasion: Invasion will be played on the map Breakpoint.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection on PC features 4K, HDR and proper mouse and keyboard support

Let's get the important stuff out of the way: 4K resolutions, HDR, and mouse and keyboard support have been promised as the standard for this collection, with each mentioned in the Steam listing. 343 says providing great mouse and keyboard controls is a "top priority", and that they're aiming for a "balanced, fun experience for PC." 

Also in the works: support is planned for 16:9, 21:9, 16:10, 3:2, and 4:3 display modes, as well as 144hz displays (the plan is to support uncapped framerates—but it's been cautioned that this depends on what's feasible for the game in question). FOV sliders are also planned, though functionality could vary based on the game. 

Split-screen co-op, a staple of the Halo series, seems less certain on PC. When asked about it during a Reddit AMA, Jarrard had this to say. "This one is tricky and the team is still looking at what can be supported."

More on Master Chief

Halo Reach will not launch with its Theater and Forge elements—expect these down the line when Halo 3 and 4 are being tackled. "From a development perspective, it makes more sense for the team to tackle Reach's Forge/Theater a little later in the roadmap at the same time as Halo 3 and Halo 4 work."

You'll need a Microsoft account to play the collection on Steam—but not Xbox Live Gold. Progression will carry across between the Xbox One and PC versions of the Master Chief Collection, in case you've somehow ended up with the former under your TV. The game will be compatible with Windows 7 and 10. Windows 8 is "being investigated". 

Halo on PC will a support custom games browser. The plan is to get some of Halo: CE's user-generated content into the Master Chief Collection, too. "We are always investigating ways to bring the wealth of Halo user created content to a larger audience for everyone to enjoy. Halo Custom Edition content is definitely on our list and is actively being explored."

Here's an hour of Halo: Reach PC gameplay

343 recently sat down with the PC version of Halo: Reach to showcase it publicly for the first time. Above is an archive of the livestream. They stuck to the campaign, so no look at multiplayer yet. But you can see Halo: Reach in its smooth, high FPS glory as developers talk about the biggest challenges porting over the game.

That's Halo Reach running on an ultrawide monitor

Halo Master Chief Collection PC

(Image credit: 343 Industries)

Halo: Master Chief Collection on PC will support ultrawide monitors, and you can see halfway across the galaxy with this thing. It's a great time to be a Halo fan.

Don't illegally download Halo Reach on PC, or be banned

Halo Reach's PC beta was only available to a select few Halo insiders, but an "illegally distributed" copy of the beta was released online. 343 says it will identify and ban any and all accounts playing this copy of the game. Probably not worth the risk, especially since the game will be out in the near future.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection on PC will have Halo: Reach-style progression in multiplayer

halo: the master chief collection

Staying faithful to Master Chief's original adventures is still priority number 1, but 343 is looking to refresh multiplayer progression across the board. The new progression will capture "the spirit of progression in Halo: Reach but deliver it in a more modern way," according to design director Max Szlagor. You'll be able to track your progress and unlock rewards. There will even be multiplayer seasons, each with their own theme.

Playing mid-season will earn you "season points" that can be cashed in for unlocks in Halo: Reach like armor pieces or Firefight announcer voices. The seasonal unlocks won't retroactively apply to other Halo games. The way those games handle unlocks will remain unchanged. Below is a work in progress mockup of what the seasonal system will look like.

halo: the master chief collection: season rewards

After weighing the options of staying true the legacy of Halo: Reach while also trying to improve the experience, 343 has decided to implement the popular "TU" settings across all of Halo: Reach's multiplayer. TU settings refer to a title update released late in Reach's life that rebalanced armor abilities and drastically changed weapon bloom. In the original game, some playlists used these settings while others changed. 343 sees the TU settings as overall better for balance, so they're sticking with them.

Halo: Reach on PC will have dedicated servers for Firefight and campaign co-op

With Halo: Reach on PC, gone are the days (hopefully) of laggy firefight matches. 343 is shifting away from the synchronous model that previously powered Reach's client connections. It worked okay for competitive multiplayer, but when having to interpret all of the AI and player movement of campaign and Firefight, it'd often fail to keep up. Now, dedicated servers will take the brunt the work and each player's client will sync with it separately instead of waiting for each other.

halo: the master chief collection: halo reach

Halo Reach on PC won't launch with Forge or Theater mode, but they're coming

In 343's recent development update, producer Michael Fahrney said that they don't know when Forge and Theater will come to Halo Reach PC, but it will be "a very lengthy amount of time."

"We need to properly give both features enough time, so they are a true PC-first experience," Fahrney said. "When you look specifically at Forge and what it truly is, it is a 3D editing tool that was built completely for console. In some cases, it’s built to have mouse and keyboard support, and in some it’s not—and that’s one of our biggest challenges right now with the feature."

That's a bit of a bummer, but it's better to take time and do it right. On the bright side, you'll be able to import levels previously made on Xbox 360 to the PC version via File Share. It's pretty incredible that custom maps made 10 years prior will live on.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection on PC won't have mod support at launch, but the devs are exploring options

"We are working closely with the members of the modding community (including some friends on the ElDewrito team) to explore our options for official' mod support, but we won't have this at launch," Jarrard said in that same AMA. "Our #1 priority for launch is ensuring we get each of these core games "right" for PC and security/anti-cheat is a big focus." But hey, they seem to understand it's important to PC players. 

Halo 5 isn't coming to PC

There are still no plans to bring Halo 5, the sole Xbox One entry to date, to PC. It wasn't part of the Master Chief Collection to begin with, so that's no huge surprise. Hopefully if these entries take off on PC, the outlier will follow. But hey: six games is a hell of a start. 

It's worth saying that Halo 5's Forge Bundle remains free to download on the Windows Store. 

Let's take a moment to celebrate

Halo on PC. Hell yes.

Former PC Gamer EIC Samuel has been writing about games since he was 18. He's a generalist, because life is surely about playing as many games as possible before you're put in the cold ground.